Cover to Richard Dragon: Kung Fu Fighter #1. Art by Jim Berry
|First appearance||Dragon's Fists novel (1974)|
|Created by||Dennis O'Neil (writer)
Jim Berry (artist)
|Alter ego||Richard Drakunovski|
|Abilities||Superb athlete, master martial artist.|
Richard Dragon is a fictional comic book character created by Dennis O'Neil and Jim Berry in the novel Dragon's Fists (1974) under the pseudonym "Jim Dennis." O'Neil later adapted the character for DC Comics in the comic book Richard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter.
Dragon is a thief who was trained in martial arts and decides to use his abilities for good. Along with Batman, Bronze Tiger and Lady Shiva he is considered one of the top martial artists in the DC Universe.
Fictional character biography
As a teenage sneak thief in Japan, young Richard Dragon broke into a Chinese dojo outside of Kyoto to steal a priceless jade Buddha. Before he could get away, Dragon was caught and beaten by the dojo's teenage student, Ben Turner. O-Sensei, the dojo's master, saw something worth nurturing in Richard, and for the next seven years taught Ben and Richard, side by side, mastery of the martial arts. Richard came to find an inner peace, only using his skill when absolutely necessary. Once he felt there was nothing more he could teach them, the O-Sensei left the two. Turner and Dragon were recruited by Barney Ling, head of the law-keeping espionage agency known as G.O.O.D. (Global Organization of Organized Defense), to join the organization. Together Ben and Richard would defeat the corrupt businessman Guano Cravat, foiling his plans to instigate a war for his own benefit. Ben and Richard founded a martial arts dojo in Manhattan, and Richard would go on to battle international threats such as Telegram Sam, the Preying Mantis, the League of Assassins, and his former superior, Barney Ling.
Thirsty for revenge, Cravat would arrange for the murder of Carolyn Wu-San, one of O-Sensei's god-daughters. Aided by Barney Ling, Cravat tricked Carolyn's sister, Sandra Wu-San, into believing Dragon was the murderer. Consumed with a need for revenge, Sandra trained to the peak of human capability, mastering martial arts to defeat Dragon. When the two masters finally met in battle, however, Dragon was able to show Sandra that Cravat had deceived her. Without Dragon's death as a goal, Sandra no longer had a need for her martial arts mastery. Sensing she needed guidance, Dragon helped her to explore the spiritual side of martial arts. Ultimately deciding that she was Sandra no more she rechristened herself "Shiva". She fought crime with Dragon and Ben Turner until the three parted ways. Turner, brainwashed by the villainous Sensei of the League of Assassins, became the renegade Bronze Tiger. Dragon decided to retire, devoting himself to teaching others. Lady Shiva became one of the world's greatest assassins.
Training the Question
After the character's title was canceled, Dragon became a supporting character in the 1980s series, The Question. The title character of that book, Vic Sage, was a masked crime-fighter based in Hub City, who came into conflict with Lady Shiva. After all but killing The Question, Shiva sent him to see Richard Dragon for training. Sage's stubborn streak made him near impossible for most people to teach. However when he met Dragon he found himself reluctant to challenge his new sensei, because Dragon was in a wheelchair. Richard trained The Question both in martial arts and eastern philosophy, forcing him to question his world view and let go of much of his anger. Of note, he loosely quoted Zhuangzi's story "The Butterfly Dream". Later Richard would start referring to his student as "Butterfly" because of this. Richard said that Shiva had saved Sage because she saw a passion for combat in him while Richard, on the other hand, thought that Sage's passion was for curiosity. Regardless, Richard realized that for Sage to have a spiritual awakening he had to first let go of the self-destructive behaviors that Hub City brought out in him. Thus Richard sent Sage back home. As he left, Sage met Shiva again, and the two briefly sparred. She explained that this fight had been for her to test her own perceptions. She thought she had seen a "warrior's passion" in him that was lacking skills, and felt that she had been proved correct since he faced her a second time knowing she had destroyed him the first. Shiva concluded that she had been right about him and Richard wrong, but Sage proposed that maybe he had just been curious what would happen if they fought again, which would make Richard right. Sage adopted the identity of The Question again, futilely trying to save the city.
Just as Sage's doomed efforts to save Hub City threatened to destroy him, Dragon arrived to advise his student. Dragon finally convinced Sage that his crusade to save Hub City was no longer doing anything but destroying him. When Sage collapsed from exhaustion and his injuries, Richard revealed that he was capable of using his legs perfectly, and put Sage in the wheelchair. Dragon had realized he would need the chair to make Sage let down his defences - Sage was so "full of macho" that he would never have listened to him otherwise.
The chair had not been just a charade, however. Richard revealed that he had allowed himself to be handicapped as part of his own learning process, going on to state "I was a teacher then. I am about to become something else. So I discard that option". The city had truly degenerated by this point all pretense of law and order long lost. Richard, who had thought his studies had put him beyond such things, found himself shocked and horrified by the actions of people in Hub City. For example, a man was using a dead baby to try and beg for 'milk money'. When Richard and the others uncovered this, he tossed the body into a nearby trash can.
Dragon wordlessly met Lady Shiva, who had arrived on the outskirts of Hub City in the helicopter that was to take Sage and Dragon away - she wished to go toward and enjoy the chaos that Sage and Richard were rejecting. Shiva uses force and threats to ensure the pilot would do what she wishes.
Richard would next appear as sensei to Oracle, helping her to see past her own wheelchair-related limitations. Dragon spends months training her in escrima, the Philippine art of stick fighting, a martial art she could use despite her wheelchair.
Not long after that, the masked heroine The Huntress became the main suspect in a series of murders. Realizing that her headstrong nature would likely mean her death this time, The Question saved her from her many pursuers (including the police and Batman), and took her to Richard Dragon. Seeing many similarities between her and The Question, Dragon helped teach the adventuress to control her anger and "slow down".
Chuck Dixon Revamp
In 2004, the title was revived and the character revamped by Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel, only to be canceled after twelve issues. In this short series, Richard Dragon is a bullied school kid who enrolls in a karate dojo to better himself. Unfortunately, the dojo's instructor was a "mail-order" black belt, who is later defeated by the Bronze Tiger. The Bronze Tiger then agrees to train young Dragon. He eventually meets and falls in love with Lady Shiva. Although he wins the martial arts tournament she is watching, she chides him for not being able to live up to the powerful name of "Dragon." Shiva becomes Dragon's lover and instructor, and the series touches on their now strained relationship.
The series begins with the Tiger locating Dragon, who is seeking death by fighting in death matches. He agrees to help Dragon resolve his problems with Shiva if he agrees to stop killing. In tracking Shiva they are confronted by Nightwing and the new Green Arrow, Connor Hawke. Nightwing alludes to Dragon training him, as Dragon trained Bruce Wayne, who passed that training on to Nightwing.
At the end of the series, Dragon and Shiva are pitted in combat. Dragon gains the upper hand in the fight, and as he begins to deliver his death blow, Shiva's devout followers rush to save her, knocking Dragon away. Unhappy at this disturbance, Shiva attacks and possibly kills her followers before returning to kill Dragon with her signature move, the Leopard Claw. Dragon is, however, resurrected by the demonic Neron who wants Dragon to kill Shiva. Dragon refuses and walks away from Neron, saying that both had held up their parts of the agreement.
Richard Dragon appears starting in Week 26 of the comic book 52, in the mystic city of Nanda Parbat, where he starts to train former Gotham Detective Renee Montoya. His appearance matches that of the Richard Dragon seen before the Dixon reboot (albeit with a full head of long hair, as when training Question and Oracle, rather than balding when training Huntress). In this story Dragon makes references to a conversation he had with The Question in the Question series, contradicting at least some of Chuck Dixon's Richard Dragon series. The 52 series is also where Richard's former student, Vic Sage, dies from cancer.
The New 52
In the New 52, a character identifying himself as Richard Dragon first appears in Green Arrow #23.  In Green Arrow #31, he appears leading a team of Green Arrow's enemies, referred to as the Longbow Hunters. In "Green Arrow" #32 the character identifies himself as the namesake son of drug kingpin Ricardo Diaz who had been killed by John Diggle (posing as Green Arrow). He revealed that after his father's death and the fall of his criminal empire he sought out and found the League of Assassins where his sensei taught him to become a living weapon. He claims that when his sensei also taught him patience and compassion, which he perceived to be a weakness, he killed his sensei and took his name.
Students of the Dragon
In the 2004 series, flashbacks indicated that Richard had trained several others, including Dick Grayson, Bruce Wayne, and Green Arrow (Connor Hawke). Given that the version of Richard Dragon seen in 52 appeared to be the version seen prior to the 2004 retcon, the canonical nature of these students is unclear.
Powers and abilities
Richard Dragon possesses no superhuman or metahuman powers, but is a superb athlete and a master martial artist. He is also a master of philosophy and specifically as it concerns a heroic lifestyle and he has guided those such as the Huntress or Wonder Woman in the past as to the correct path they need to live. When he focuses his inner energies (usually by touching the jade claw pendant the O-Sensei gave him), his spirit and body become (metaphorically) like unrelenting granite. He is considered one of the top martial artists in the DC Universe.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter was based on the 1974 novel Dragon's Fists by "Jim Dennis" (the shared pseudonym of comic book writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Jim Berry)."
- Beatty, Scott (2008), "Dragon, Richard", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 110, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- "The Question" #34 (1990)
- "The Question" #35 (1990)
- "The Question" #36 (1990)
- "52" Week Thirty-Eight (2006)